Lace up your shoes, fill your day pack, or keep the rubber side down with this ultimate north-to-south road trip through the Land of Enchantment.
New Mexico, affectionately known as the Land of Enchantment, has it all: world-class mountain biking, epic backcountry trail running, stunning summit hikes, iconic ski lines, and everything in between. From north to south, this guidebook highlights an epic multi-sport road trip through the state, beginning near Santa Fe and ending with the Franklin Mountains just north of El Paso, Texas. While there are plenty of outdoor destinations and noteworthy trails that did not make this list, we’ve included multiple activities for each destination, as well as roadside stops worth factoring into your plans. If you are traveling east-to west (or vice-versa) on Interstate 40 or 10, you could pick up this itinerary at any point and continue between destinations.
Starting things off in Santa Fe, the Winsor Trail is the single must-do mountain bike ride around town, and even accessible via shuttle thanks to the town’s public transit system. The Dale Ball Loop also offers a tour of Santa Fe’s marquee trail system, and an option that trail runners will also enjoy. Hikers will want to eye the Atalaya Mountain Loop near town, which reaches the nearly 9,100-foot summit with expansive views of the area.
Heading south into the greater Albuquerque area, trail run or hike the rugged Whitewash Loop, or explore the La Luz Trail, which offers access to the stunning and scenic Sandia Crest. With clever planning, you could even plan a point-to-point run thanks to the Sandia Peak Tramway. Of course, if you’d rather spend some time in the saddle, the North Foothills, Placitas, and the famous White Ridge Trail near White Mesa all offer spectacular two-wheeled options with something for everyone.
Between 2 and 3 hours south of Albuquerque, Socorro is a quaint college and mining town noted by most travelers for its Wal-Mart along Interstate 25. Though the town’s economy no longer thrives as it did during the 1800s mining boom, the quiet Magdalena Mountains tower ominously over the city’s western horizon. If you love riding technical, downhill singletrack with high exposure, then Copper Canyon is for you. Trail runners will also enjoy this version of the route, while hikers will enjoy the sunset from the nearby Mesa Trail. This area is best explored between March and October, utilizing the free Water Canyon Campground facilities as a hub.
From there, the route takes a detour east from the interstate bound for the Valley of Fires near Carrizozo. Managed by the BLM, this recreation area hosts a short boardwalk hike along the Malpais Nature Trail and is loaded with stunning views, unique flora, and waysides along the trail that speak of the region’s significance as both a geological and ecological hotspot.
Heading south, one could argue that a side trip to Ruidoso is a must-do, though it's a little less frequented since it has a limited season to hike or run due to snow. That said, no New Mexico road trip would be complete without a stop at the iconic White Sands National Park. This guidebook highlights the park’s 5 established hiking trails as they tour the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, and the Backcountry Camping Trail offers an easy hike to a large dunefield where you could pitch a tent under the stars. Those short on time should consider the Interdune Boardwalk or Playa Trail Overlook, both being under a mile in length.
There are two ways to end this trip: with a stop at the Tortugas Mountains on your way to the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, or with a more eastward journey to the Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Combined, both destinations warrant an entire trip of their own, though they are often paired together thanks to their proximity. Guadalupe is also home to the “Top of Texas” with its nearly 8,700-foot high ceiling, while Carlsbad Canyons hosts an extensive network of caverns tucked deep under the Chihuahuan desert landscape.